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‘Proactive risk and opportunity planning’ as in-house counsel

When it comes to good governance within an organisation, in-house counsel must be proactive to be abreast of future risks and opportunities moving forward.

user iconLauren Croft 09 April 2024 Corporate Counsel
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Shiara Mutukisna is the BeiGene senior director and senior legal counsel in the Asia-Pacific region.

Speaking on a recent episode of The Corporate Counsel Show, she discussed governance during times of uncertainty and the importance of being proactive in terms of governance in organisations.

BeiGene is a biotech company largely specialising in oncology treatments – and Mutukisna said there were a number of macro trends currently impacting the legal team there.


“There’s the geopolitical environment and some mounting tensions in that area. We’re also seeing the advent of AI technology, so the greater use of ChatGPT, which is sort of starting to change the way lawyers and lawyers within our organisation work as well. So, whilst for me, technology brings great innovation, and it’s a boon for a lot of industries, you really have to think about how you can add value if it’s not through doing the things we’ve always done,” she said.

“And we’re seeing that in e-discovery, for example, which has really cut the number of hours that we spend doing routine, mundane tasks. But it also then means we need to think about how we add value as lawyers. And for me, it’s really about building good partnerships with the business, really trying to understand how the business works, what’s important to people in various teams within the organisation so you can actually partner with them to drive solutions.

In light of these trends and the state of the broader market, Mutukisna emphasised that governance is now “more important than it’s ever been”.

“If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that change is a constant. We’re always dealing with a huge amount of uncertainty. There was this report that came out last year that said 55 per cent of what happens in an organisation is not under the direct control of the CEO. And, I would actually argue, by extension, the board and the SLT. And that obviously brings some challenges, challenges around the area of ESG, climate change, societal expectations,” she added.

“And some of the things that I really see as being important in the governance space, [and for] in-house legal teams, is the opportunity to provide some clarity in the uncertainty. So, that’s really around having some good structures. Not all structures and frameworks are good, but for me, that really means that you have policies and procedures that work for the organisation that are meaningful [and] easy to understand.

“So much more is expected of legal teams of organisations than there ever has been, both from a societal perspective and broader stakeholder groups. I think being prepared, and you can’t be prepared for every eventuality, but the organisations that I’ve worked in, that I’ve seen do governance well are those that think about the ‘what-if’ scenarios and having place plans that prepare you for that.”

Good governance is also key to building trust with various stakeholders, particularly as the role of in-house counsel grows and changes.

“It is very easy to lose trust in an organisation. So, governance is key in really building faith and trust in your stakeholders, whether it’s your patients, your regulators, investor relations group, that you actually have robust mechanisms in place to ride through challenges. But also, for me, it’s about sustainability. I think if we want to continue to succeed and thrive as an organisation into the future, then being sustainable is really key to that,” Mutukisna said.

“The role of a legal counsel and a law department has evolved from being, I guess, the naysayer, the team that sat in its ivory tower, to really being one of the teams closely integrated with the business. And I think that has huge value because, as lawyers, we’re taught to think critically and ask the what-if questions and to ask probing questions, and I think that’s super important. Asking the right questions, being closely involved with the business, getting to know the various stakeholders, getting to know the way the business runs [are] super important.”

Moving forward, this also means in-house counsel now have to be more proactive than ever, especially in terms of governance within their organisations.

“Being proactive, foreseeing both risk and opportunities, is super important. In our organisation, we do proactive risk and opportunity planning, where we sit down as a leadership team and as a broad organisation, and map out what’s happening in the macro environment from a pricing perspective, changes in the environment, but also what’s happening internally,” Mutukisna outlined.

“We can then start to think about what are our risks and opportunities, how do we turn the risk into opportunities, and how do we make sure that we have a constant eye on the risk and opportunity planning so that it’s continuously upgraded. It’s a constant live, working document that we have our eye on so that things don’t hit you when you least expect it and that you can actually get in front of change.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Shiara Mutukisna, click below: